Miliband meets resistance from within as he sets out new policy on immigration

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Indy Politics

Ed Miliband is to set out plans to ease the pressure of migration on housing, schools and hospitals despite discontent within his own party about his controversial comments on foreign workers, The Independent has learned.

The Labour leader yesterday called for measures to prevent British people being "locked out" of employment by job seekers from overseas.

The perils of the Labour leader's new focus on immigration were underlined by the hostile reaction of the party's left to his speech calling for a new approach to the sensitive issue. Diane Abbott, the shadow Public Health minister, protested over the way his comments were spun by the leadership, while the MP John McDonnell accused him of taking the wrong approach to the issue of migrant workers under-cutting wages.

Mr Miliband admitted that his party had got immigration policy wrong in office – notably the decision not to impose curbs in 2004 on workers from new European Union member states.

He also proposed ways of rebalancing the labour market in favour of British workers, including forcing firms to declare if they employ large numbers of immigrants and banning overseas-only employment agencies.

The speech is not to be his only intervention into the potentially toxic subject and Mr Miliband plans to tackle the strain immigration places on public services. Allies say he believes such demands harm relations within communities. "This is only the start," a party source said. "We will also look at the services to which migrants are entitled such as social housing, schools and the NHS."

Ms Abbott made plain her disapproval of Mr Miliband's comments as she retweeted several comments by critics of his plans. Challenged over her own views, she tweeted: "I am judging the speech by the way Labour's own spin doctors have chosen to spin it."

Mr McDonnell told BBC Radio 4 that "issues about wages being under-cut by migrant labour" had been around for centuries and the way to tackle the problem was to boost union rights.